Moss Mansion opened grounds to the community for Saturday’s SpringFest

The three-story home on Division Street draws school groups throughout the year and visitors from around the country who come to hear the story of the Moss family, whose patriarch P.B. Moss, in conjunction with other businessmen, founded The Billings Gazette, the Northern Hotel, the sugar beet factory, and the Billings Light and Water Power Company. The Moss Mansion will live up to its nickname, a mansion for everyone, on Saturday when the community is invited to visit the grounds for free.

Moss wasn’t just a wealthy landowner, but a community booster and visionary who helped Billings grow, said Ruth Towe. Towe is one of the founders of the Billings Preservation Society, a community group that formed in 1983 to save the Moss Mansion. Towe said the group always kept in mind that the mansion should be for everyone.

“The Moss is a reminder of our past and of the founding fathers who established Billings,” Towe said. “It’s also been a tremendous boost for tourism.”

On Saturday, the grounds which include a rose garden and blooming irises, will open to the community to celebrate spring in much the way the Moss family did — with music and art. Eleven musicians and dance groups will perform between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dozens of artists and craftsmen from throughout the Northwest will demonstrate their craft or offer items for sale.

You can also tour the interior of the Moss Mansion on Saturday at a cost of $10 for adults, $6 for students 6-17, or $7 for seniors and members of the military.

It’s been 28 years since volunteers hosted the first SpringFest, Moss director Jenna Richter said.

SpringFest gives the Moss a chance to show off for the neighbors and to raise money to maintain the historic home built in 1903. It is no longer the top fundraiser for the Moss, which is now the Party for Preservation, but it was the first.

“I love the SpringFest because it truly fits with what was Maddie Moss, the matriarch of the family, because she was an artist,” Richter said. “It was one of those things that the family would have approved of.”

Spring Fest opens at 8:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast, served by volunteers. Throughout the day, there will be mimosas, wine and locally-brewed craft beer for sale, as well as barbecued burgers and ice cream treats.

Richter said volunteers have elevated SpringFest this year to feature more music presented in three areas on the grounds and more food concessions.

“Last year we had 4,200 people here. If the weather holds, that’s been the number of visitors we get in one day. It’s one of those things that we do over here for the community. It’s a feel-good event,” Richter said.

The Moss Mansion is owned in part by the city of Billings and the state of Montana. The BPS leases it for $1 every 30 years, with the idea that the non-profit maintains and runs it on its own.

“That’s why we do so many fundraisers,” Richter said. “What’s amazing is that people in all different kinds of ways keep this house running, whether it is bringing a friend or family member over when they are in town or granting funds when a family member passes away.”

Towe said historic home museums are among the most popular types of museums, partially because they tell the story of a local family. In the case of the Moss family, their story is the story of Billings.